What credit score do I need to buy a home?

What credit score do I need to buy a home?

For most people looking to buy a new home, once they’ve found the perfect house, they then need to secure a home loan. When you are starting the application process, you could have some anxious moments about how lenders will view your home loan application. Typically lenders look at factors such as age, occupation and income. In addition to those, your credit score plays an important role in evaluating your application.

A credit score is a number used by lenders to assess your creditworthiness. Simply put, it is a way for lenders to assure themselves of your ability to repay the loan comfortably. You need to understand the factors that affect your credit score, and also to know what is a good credit score to buy a home.

What is the credit score required to buy a house in Australia?

Your credit score signifies your ability to repay a loan on time and provides a gauge of any future risk of default, based on your credit history.

Credit score numbers are between 0 and 1,000, and the higher the number, the better your credit score. Each credit measuring body has different parameters to measure and evaluate credit scores. A good score increases your chances of getting approval on your home loan application.

Most Australian lenders don’t make their credit criteria public which makes finding out the exact credit score you need to qualify for a home loan not easy. To complicate matters further, most lenders don’t depend solely on your credit score to measure your risk; they also rely on their own internal credit evaluation yardsticks.

So, what is the minimum credit score to buy a house, you might wonder. While it is difficult to put your finger on the exact cut-off mark to qualify for a home loan, some benchmarks help to determine if your score will make the cut. 

Below 509 (below average) – If your score is below 509, you likely fall into the high-risk category, and conventional lenders may be reluctant to grant you a home loan. There are a few lenders who might still consider your application even with a low score, but the interest rates are usually very high. We’ll discuss ways to get a home loan with a low credit score a little later.

510 to 621 (average) – A credit score in this bracket usually means that you have some negative marks in your file, and lenders might ask for more information before they’ll consider your loan application.

622 to 725 (good) – This is a good place to start from, and a number in this range vastly improves your chances of getting approval on your home loan application. You should also have access to lower interest rates than those with average credit scores.

726 to 832 (very good) – Congratulations, you’re part of the top 40 per cent of creditworthy Australians. Most lenders will be eager to have your business and will gladly offer you a home loan.

833 to 1200 (excellent) – An excellent score is one that lenders consider to be extremely low risk, and lenders will be keen to offer you a loan. Approvals are generally quick, and you will have more options to choose from than those with lower scores.

Can I get a home loan with a low credit score?

The chances of getting approval on your home loan application with a score above 600 are high. But can you still get a home loan if your credit score is below 500? Yes, you’re still eligible for a home loan but only from a specialist or non-conforming lender. These are lenders who offer what is known as bad credit home loans to high-risk borrowers with low credit scores. Bad credit home loans are similar to regular home loans, but with much higher interest rates and less choice home loan options. These limitations are due to the risk associated with lending to people with low credit scores which are perceived as greater for the lender.

Bad credit lenders still have their own internal guidelines regarding which loan application they approve, which often depends on a variety of factors. It may be helpful to use the services of a mortgage broker in such a scenario, as they can suggest which bank is likely to have a home loan product that suits your needs. Applying with a lender directly and getting rejected will negatively impact your credit score further because each application submitted will reflect on your credit file.

What’s the minimum credit score for a home improvement loan?

Not all home loan applications are for the purchase of a home or an investment property. Perhaps you’re looking to finance a home renovation project and wish to borrow money. In this case, applying for a home equity loan or home equity line of credit is one way of getting the money you need to complete your renovation. Once again, your credit score is a key factor considered by lenders at the time of evaluating whether you qualify for a home equity loan.

A score between 660 and 700 is considered acceptable, but some lenders might charge you a higher interest rate. Some may even wish to look at other financial factors, such as your overall debt, your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio or the amount of equity you currently hold.

A DTI ratio gives an idea of your total monthly debt payments, and it is calculated based on how much you earn and how much you spend on your recurring debts and liabilities. These include credit cards, existing loans, tax debt, etc. Most lenders look for a low DTI ratio, nothing more than 40 to 43 per cent of your monthly gross income. If you have a low credit score, then a low DTI can work in your favour and give the lender more confidence to offer you the loan.

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Learn more about home loans

What is a bad credit home loan?

A bad credit home loan is a mortgage for people with a low credit score. Lenders regard bad credit borrowers as riskier than ‘vanilla’ borrowers, so they tend to charge higher interest rates for bad credit home loans.

If you want a bad credit home loan, you’re more likely to get approved by a small non-bank lender than by a big four bank or another mainstream lender.

How can I get a home loan with bad credit?

If you want to get a home loan with bad credit, you need to convince a lender that your problems are behind you and that you will, indeed, be able to repay a mortgage.

One step you might want to take is to visit a mortgage broker who specialises in bad credit home loans (also known as ‘non-conforming home loans’ or ‘sub-prime home loans’). An experienced broker will know which lenders to approach, and how to plead your case with each of them.

Two points to bear in mind are:

  • Many home loan lenders don’t provide bad credit mortgages
  • Each lender has its own policies, and therefore favours different things

If you’d prefer to directly approach the lender yourself, you’re more likely to find success with smaller non-bank lenders that specialise in bad credit home loans (as opposed to bigger banks that prefer ‘vanilla’ mortgages). That’s because these smaller lenders are more likely to treat you as a unique individual rather than judge you according to a one-size-fits-all policy.

Lenders try to minimise their risk, so if you want to get a home loan with bad credit, you need to do everything you can to convince lenders that you’re safer than your credit history might suggest. If possible, provide paperwork that shows:

  • You have a secure job
  • You have a steady income
  • You’ve been reducing your debts
  • You’ve been increasing your savings

Are bad credit home loans dangerous?

Bad credit home loans can be dangerous if the borrower signs up for a loan they’ll struggle to repay. This might occur if the borrower takes out a mortgage at the limit of their financial capacity, especially if they have some combination of a low income, an insecure job and poor savings habits.

Bad credit home loans can also be dangerous if the borrower buys a home in a stagnant or falling market – because if the home has to be sold, they might be left with ‘negative equity’ (where the home is worth less than the mortgage).

That said, bad credit home loans can work out well if the borrower is able to repay the mortgage – for example, if they borrow conservatively, have a decent income, a secure job and good savings habits. Another good sign is if the borrower buys a property in a market that is likely to rise over the long term.

Does Australia have no cost refinancing?

No Cost Refinancing is an option available in the US where the lender or broker covers your switching costs, such as appraisal fees and settlement costs. Unfortunately, no cost refinancing isn’t available in Australia.

Can I change jobs while I am applying for a home loan?

Whether you’re a new borrower or you’re refinancing your home loan, many lenders require you to be in a permanent job with the same employer for at least 6 months before applying for a home loan. Different lenders have different requirements. 

If your work situation changes for any reason while you’re applying for a mortgage, this could reduce your chances of successfully completing the process. Contacting the lender as soon as you know your employment situation is changing may allow you to work something out. 

Can I get a home loan if I am on an employment contract?

Some lenders will allow you to apply for a mortgage if you are a contractor or freelancer. However, many lenders prefer you to be in a permanent, ongoing role, because a more stable income means you’re more likely to keep up with your repayments.

If you’re a contractor, freelancer, or are otherwise self-employed, it may still be possible to apply for a low-doc home loan, as these mortgages require less specific proof of income.

Will I have to pay lenders' mortgage insurance twice if I refinance?

If your deposit was less than 20 per cent of your property’s value when you took out your original loan, you may have paid lenders’ mortgage insurance (LMI) to cover the lender against the risk that you may default on your repayments. 

If you refinance to a new home loan, but still don’t have enough deposit and/or equity to provide 20 per cent security, you’ll need to pay for the lender’s LMI a second time. This could potentially add thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in upfront costs to your mortgage, so it’s important to consider whether the financial benefits of refinancing may be worth these costs.

Is there a limit to how many times I can refinance?

There is no set limit to how many times you are allowed to refinance. Some surveyed RateCity users have refinanced up to three times.

However, if you refinance several times in short succession, it could affect your credit score. Lenders assess your credit score when you apply for new loans, so if you end up with bad credit, you may not be able to refinance if and when you really need to.

Before refinancing multiple times, consider getting a copy of your credit report and ensure your credit history is in good shape for future refinances.

I have a poor credit rating. Am I still able to get a mortgage?

Some lenders still allow you to apply for a home loan if you have impaired credit. However, you may pay a slightly higher interest rate and/or higher fees. This is to help offset the higher risk that you may default on your repayments.

I can't pick a loan. Should I apply to multiple lenders?

Applying for home loans with multiple lenders at once can affect your credit history, as multiple loan applications in short succession can make you look like a risky borrower. Comparing home loans from different lenders, assessing their features and benefits, and making one application to a preferred lender may help to improve your chances of success

Will I be paying two mortgages at once when I refinance?

No, given the way the loan and title transfer works, you will not have to pay two mortgages at the one time. You will make your last monthly repayment on loan number one and then the following month you will start paying off loan number two.

If I don't like my new lender after I refinance, can I go back to my previous lender?

If you wish to return to your previous lender after refinancing, you will have to go through the refinancing process again and pay a second set of discharge and upfront fees. 

Therefore, before you refinance, it’s important to weigh up the new prospective lender against your current lender in a number of areas, including fees, flexibility, customer service and interest rate.

Can I refinance if I have other products bundled with my home loan?

If your home loan was part of a package deal that included access to credit cards, transaction accounts or term deposits from the same lender, switching all of these over to a new lender can seem daunting. However, some lenders offer to manage part of this process for you as an incentive to refinance with them – contact your lender to learn more about what they offer.

What are the responsibilities of a mortgage broker?

Mortgage brokers act as the go-between for borrowers looking for a home loan and the lenders offering the loan. They offer personalised advice to help borrowers choose the right home loan for their needs.

In Australia, mortgage brokers are required by law to carry an Australian Credit License (ACL) if they offer credit assistance services. Which is the legal term for guidance regarding the different kinds of credit offered by lenders, including home loan mortgages. They may not need this license if they are working for an aggregator, for instance, as a franchisee. In both these situations, they need to comply with the regulations laid down by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

These regulations, which are stipulated by Australian legislation, require mortgage brokers to comply with what are called “responsible lending” and “best interest” obligations. Responsible lending obligations mean brokers have to suggest “suitable” home loans. This means loans that you can easily qualify for,  actually meet your needs, and don’t prove unnecessarily challenging for you.

Starting 1 January 2021, mortgage brokers must comply with best interest obligations in addition to responsible lending obligations. These require mortgage brokers to act in the best interest of their customers and also requires them to prioritise their customers’ interests over their own. For instance, a mortgage broker may not recommend a lender who gives them a commission if that lender’s home loan offer does not benefit that particular customer.